Michigan labor outlook gives grower-shippers reason to worry

06/09/2011 10:21:00 AM
Dan Gailbraith

“We have a lot of people from last year who have come back, and we seem to be OK,” Pirrone said.

Pirrone said he’s more worried about the cost of fertilizer and fuel.

Todd Miedema, marketing director and principal in Miedema Produce Inc., Hudsonville, Mich., said labor has not been an issue for his operation, either.

“It’s one of those things that always requires your attention, but it has not been an issue,” Todd Miedema said. “We have adequate labor.”

“We have to compete with the Mexican product coming in, we’ve got Canadian product coming in, and both of those countries have guest worker programs,” Costanza said.

Bruce Heeren, vice president of Michigan Fresh Marketing, Belding, said he didn’t expect labor to be a problem this season.

“There seems to be an abundance of workers available again this season due to the lackluster economy, i.e. field workers that may have worked in construction or lawn and landscaping services when the economy was good,” Heeren said.

Even for those less worried about the labor market, there are still issues with complying with laws and regulations that affect how migrant labor housing and employment verification work.

“The only issue we have had with our seasonal help here at Superior is finding apartments to house them as the decline in the housing marketing is leading to a spike/waiting list on the apartment side of things locally,” said Todd DeWaard, sales manager of Hudsonville-based Superior Sales.

Costanza said there have also been issues with regulations being sprung on growers at the last minute, including a recent requirement that laundry facilities be present in worker housing.


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